The actual Hunger Games are the series’ raison d’être, but they were the primary stumbling block for the first film, due in part to Gary Ross’ shaky-cam direction, and in part to the monotony of the wooded arena in which the 74th Games took place. Not so with Catching Fire’s watery jungle arena, which is not only nicer to look at and filmed with more care, but also has a personality of its own that reflects the diabolical, oppressive nature of the Gamemakers and The Capitol. Its lethal-clock device is straight out of Collins’ book, but it translates well to screen, giving Katniss and her allies a lot more to worry about than their fellow tributes. The arena’s technology-altered natural world is terrifying when it’s actively pursuing its prey. (It’s also a little reminiscent of The Cabin In The Woods.) There’s nothing particularly novel about poison fog and killer monkeys, but they’re deployed smartly here, and the jabberjay sequence, where Katniss and Finnick are tortured with the bird-reproduced cries of their suffering loved ones, works even better than it does on the page, thanks in large part to Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. As the embodiment of the institutional evil that placed the tributes there, the arena itself is the film’s most effective villain and source of terror—and its destruction is a relatively small but welcome triumph in a movie that leaves a question mark after its victors’ victory.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Reveal furthers the discussion of the film while providing a space for readers who have seen it to discuss plot-sensitive details. In other words: Spoilers ahead. Avoiding spoilers? Return to the review.